Thursday, June 2, 2011

Offense silenced in series opener

By Anthony Fenech / | 6/3/2011

PHOENIX -- A comeback wasn't in the cards for the D-backs on Thursday night.

Propelled by three first-inning runs and an impressive pitching performance from Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals defeated the D-backs, 6-1, in front of 17,810 at Chase Field.

"We knew coming in he had good stuff," D-backs right fielder Justin Upton said. "He showed it tonight."

The D-backs hit a number of balls hard but couldn't muster more than a run against the 25-year-old right-hander, who threw seven innings, allowed six hits and struck out four.

"He pitched and pounded the zone," Upton said. "We were able to barrel him up a few times, but it didn't work out for us."

Zimmermann walked one, singled twice at the plate and earned his third victory of the season.

"Very efficient," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Zimmermann's performance. "He's sneaky, has good velocity and he throws the ball good."

Opposing Zimmermann was left-hander Zach Duke, who found himself behind the eight-ball early in his first home start, allowing three runs on four hits in the first inning.

After Duke struck out Roger Bernadina to open the game, Ian Desmond doubled on a high fly ball that evaded D-backs second baseman Kelly Johnson in shallow right field.

"Kelly would tell you he wishes he would have made it," Gibson said. "But it's not an easy play by any means.

"Playing him up the middle, you're running an extremely long way and your eyes are bouncing, you're all out and then you're just basically running to a spot and hoping you can throw your glove up."

Two batters later, Mike Morse singled Desmond home. Danny Espinosa followed with a single before Wilson Ramos doubled two runs home on an 0-2 pitch to deep center field.

"I didn't execute that pitch," Duke said of the pitch to Ramos. "I left a cutter up in the middle, he hit it hard and obviously that's the turning point in the game."

Duke settled down after that inning and pitched five frames, allowing four runs on 10 hits while striking out six. He walked none.

"The first inning got out of control for me," he said. "I was able to keep us in it and give us a chance, but unfortunately we didn't get it done tonight."

Washington pitchers bent, but did not break during a pair of two-on, two-out at-bats that could have provided the spark the D-backs needed to cue their 18th comeback of the season.

In both the fifth and eighth innings, Arizona hitters squared up on the baseball and laced pitches to right field, but both times right at Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth.

"The D-backs hit the ball hard," said Zimmermann, who induced an inning-ending flyout from Ryan Roberts in the fifth, stranding two runners. "And some that were hard hit but right at guys. I got a little lucky there."

The D-backs were finally rewarded by scraping across a run in the seventh on a RBI groundout by Gerardo Parra, scoring Miguel Montero, who doubled to lead off the seventh.

Washington added two runs in the ninth off Aaron Heilman on a triple from Bernadina and a single from Morse, his fourth of the game for a career-high four hits, extending his hit streak to 11 games.

"We didn't play very good," Gibson said. "Not a lot went right for us. Just one of those nights."

Upton had two hits, extending his hitting streak to five games.

"We swung the bats well," he said. "But they played good defense. That's baseball sometimes."

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